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Sea Power in its Relations to the War of 1812 - Volume 2
by Alfred Thayer Mahan
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- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have been preserved. Subscripts are respresented with {} e.g.: Q{2}. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -

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SEA POWER IN ITS RELATIONS TO THE WAR OF 1812

BY

CAPTAIN A.T. MAHAN, D.C.L., LL.D.

United States Navy

AUTHOR OF "THE INFLUENCE OF SEA POWER UPON HISTORY, 1660-1783," "THE INFLUENCE OF SEA POWER UPON THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AND EMPIRE," "THE INTEREST OF AMERICA IN SEA POWER," ETC.

IN TWO VOLUMES

VOL. II

LONDON SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & COMPANY LIMITED





CONTENTS

CHAPTER IX

THE WINTER OF 1812-1813—BAINBRIDGE'S SQUADRON: ACTIONS BETWEEN "CONSTITUTION" AND "JAVA," "HORNET" AND "PEACOCK"—INCREASING PRESSURE ON ATLANTIC COAST Page

Bainbridge's squadron sails 1

His plans for the cruise 2

The "Essex" fails to join 3

Proceedings of "Constitution" and "Hornet" 3

Action between "Constitution" and "Java" 4

The "Constitution" returns to the United States 7

Proceedings of the "Hornet" 7

Action between the "Hornet" and "Peacock" 8

The "Hornet" returns 9

The Chesapeake and Delaware blockaded 9

Subsequent extension of blockade to the whole coast south of Newport 10

Three periods into which the War of 1812 divides 10

Difficulty of American frigates in getting to sea 11

Difficulty of manning the navy 12

Cruise of the "Chesapeake" 13

Gradual suppression of American commerce 14

Increasing stringency of the commercial blockade 15

British occupation of Delaware and Chesapeake Bays 16

Diminution of the coasting trade, and increase of land carriage 17

Effects upon prices 18

Abandoned condition of the western Atlantic 20

Diminution in number of prizes taken by Americans 20

Estimate of relative captures by the two belligerents 21

Relative captures no indication of relative immunity 23

American deprivation makes for the prosperity of Halifax and Canada 23

The blockade the chief offensive maritime operation of Great Britain, in 1813 24

No opposition longer possible to the American Navy 25

Strength of the British blockading divisions 25

Escape possible only by evasion 25

The brunt of the British naval operations falls upon the Chesapeake and Delaware 26

CHAPTER X

CAMPAIGN OF 1813 ON THE LAKE FRONTIER, TO THE BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE

The British naval service on the lakes under Warren's supervision 28

Sir James Yeo appointed to the local command 29

Appoints Captain Barclay to take charge of British vessels on Lake Erie 29

The Americans now superior on Ontario 29

Montreal the true American objective 29

Dearborn ordered to concentrate effort upon Lake Ontario 30

Chauncey's first plan, to capture Kingston 30

Dearborn and Chauncey ordered to proceed first against Kingston, then Toronto, then Niagara 31

Dearborn's objections 32

His reports obtain change of plan from the Government 33

Chauncey's new plan 33

The expedition leaves Sackett's Harbor 36

Capture of Toronto 36

Chauncey's anxiety for Sackett's Harbor 37

Capture of Fort George, and British retreat from Niagara 38

Effects of the American occupation of the Niagara peninsula 40

American naval vessels escape from Black Rock to Erie 41

British attack upon Sackett's Harbor 42

Premature firing of the naval yard and vessels 45

Consequent delay in Chauncey's preparations 45

Yeo takes the lake with his squadron 46

American reverse at Stony Creek 46

The army retreats upon Fort George 47

The British re-occupy the peninsula, except Fort George 47

Dearborn is relieved from command 48

Paralysis of the American forces at Niagara 48

Yeo in temporary control of Lake Ontario 49

Chauncey sails to contest control 51

Characteristics of the ensuing naval campaign 52

Predominant idea of Chauncey and Yeo 52

Relative powers of the two squadrons 53

Their encounter of August 10, 1813 56

Chauncey's extreme caution 59

The engagement of September 11 60

Expediency of a "general chase" under the conditions 61

CHAPTER XI

THE CAMPAIGN OF 1813 ON THE LAKES AND NORTHERN FRONTIER—THE BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE

The American Navy on Lake Erie 62

Perry's eagerness for active operations 63

Coincidence of events on Lakes Erie and Ontario 64

Inferiority of Perry's crews in numbers and quality 64

Professional contrast between Chauncey and Perry 65

Personal difficulty. Perry applies to be detached 66

The Navy Department refuses 67

Position of the American army on the Maumee 67

Procter's attack upon Fort Meigs 68

Procter and Barclay plan attack on Erie 69

Re-enforcements of troops refused them 69

Barclay blockades Erie 70

Barclay visits Long Point 71

Perry's squadron crosses the bar at Erie 72

Procter attacks Fort Stephenson, and is repulsed 73

Barclay retires to Malden 74

Perry in control of the lake 74

Destitution of provisions in the British camp and fleet 75

Barclay goes out to fight 76

Composition and armament of the two squadrons 76

Controversy about the battle 78

Dispositions of the two commanders 80

Opening of the battle 81

Examination of the controversy between Perry and Elliott 82

Progress of the engagement 88

Second stage of the battle 89

The British surrender 94

Meritorious conduct of Captain Barclay 94

Question of credit on the American side 95

Comparison of the campaigns on Erie and on Ontario 99

Effect of the battle on the fate of the Northwest 99

Its bearing upon the peace negotiations of the following year 100

Influence of control of the water illustrated on the lakes 101

CHAPTER XII

THE CAMPAIGN OF 1813 ON THE LAKES AND NORTHERN FRONTIER, AFTER THE BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE

Perry's victory promptly followed up 102

General Harrison lands his army at Malden 103

Recovery of Detroit. Battle of the Thames, October 5, 1813 103

The Indians fall away from the British 103

Harrison's army transferred to Niagara 104

Perry detached from the lake service 104

Changed American plan of campaign on Ontario 104

General James Wilkinson replaces Dearborn 104

The Government designates Kingston as the objective 105

The embarkation begins at Niagara under cover of the navy 106

Yeo's squadron appears in the neighborhood 106

Encounter between the two squadrons, September 28, 1813 107

Criticism of Chauncey's management 108

Wilkinson's troops reach Sackett's Harbor 110

The British re-enforce Kingston 110

New change of American plan. The army to be directed on Montreal 111

Intended junction with the troops from Lake Champlain, under General Hampton 111

Wilkinson's army assembled within the mouth of the St. Lawrence 114

It proceeds down the river 114

Pursuit by a British detachment 114

American reverse at Chrystler's Farm 115

Hampton fails to join Wilkinson, and returns to Plattsburg 116

The expedition abandoned. Wilkinson goes into winter quarters at French Mills 116

Chauncey returns to Sackett's Harbor from the St. Lawrence 117

Transports Harrison's division from Niagara to Sackett's Harbor 117

Fleets lay up for the winter 117

Disastrous close of the campaign upon the Niagara 118

Americans evacuate Fort George and the peninsula 120

They burn Newark 120

Act disavowed by the American Government 120

Sir Gordon Drummond in command in Upper Canada 120

The British, under General Riall, cross the Niagara and capture Fort Niagara 121

Lewiston, Youngstown, and Manchester burned in retaliation for Newark 121

Buffalo burned, and three naval vessels at Black Rock 121

General failure of the campaign about Lake Ontario 122

Discussion of the causes 123

CHAPTER XIII

SEABOARD MARITIME OPERATIONS, 1813

United States on the defensive on the seaboard 126

British reasons for partially relaxing severity of blockade 127

Reasons do not apply to armed vessels or coasting trade 127

American Navy powerless to protect commerce 127

To destroy that of the enemy its principal mission 128

Cruises of the "President" and "Congress" 128

Efficacy of the British convoy system 130

Its chief failure is near ports of arrival 131

This dictates the orders to Captain Lawrence 131

Importance of the service 132

Imperfect preparation of the "Chesapeake" 132

Efficiency of the "Shannon." Broke's professional merit 133

His challenge to Lawrence. Not received 134

The "Chesapeake" sails, purposely to fight 135

Account of the action 136

The "Chesapeake" captured 140

Analysis of the engagement 141

Decatur fails to get to sea with a squadron 148

Driven to take refuge in New London 148

Frigates confined there for the war 149

Particular anxiety of the British Government about American frigates 150

Expectations of the Admiralty and the country from Warren's fleet 151

Effects of the blockade of New London on local coasting 152

Evidence of the closeness of the whole blockade south of New London 153

Conditions at New York 154

British operations in the upper Chesapeake, 1813 156

Conditions in Delaware Bay 158

American precautions in Chesapeake and Delaware 159

Circumspect conduct of the British vessels in the Chesapeake 161

Warren brings a detachment of troops from Bermuda 162

Rencounters in and near Hampton Roads 163

British attack upon Craney Island. Fails 164

Attack upon Hampton. Ineffective 166

Further movements of the British in the Chesapeake 167

Movement of licensed vessels in Chesapeake Bay during these operations 170

Consequent recommendation of President to prohibit all exports during the blockade 173

Rejected by Senate. Enforced in Chesapeake by executive order 174

Glaring necessity for such action 175

Embargo law passed in December, 1813 176

Main British fleet quits the Chesapeake. Its failure in direct military operation 177

Efficacy of the blockade 177

Characteristics of the different sections of the United States, as affecting their suffering from blockade 178

Statistical evidences of its effects 181

Prices of great staples: flour and sugar 184

Dependence of Eastern and Southern States upon coasting, greater than that of Middle States 186

Captain Hull's reports on Eastern coasting 187

Action between the "Boxer" and "Enterprise" 188

Intermission of Eastern blockade during winter 192

Its resumption in increased vigor in 1814 192

Undefended conditions of the American coast 193

Conditions of Southern coasting trade 195

British blockade severs the mutual intercourse of the different sections of the United States 198

Remarks of Representative Pearson, of North Carolina 199

Message of the Governor of Pennsylvania 200

Rigors of the blockade shown by figures 201

Momentary importance of the North Carolina coast 203

Advocacy of an internal navigation system 204

Evidence of privation in the rebound of prices and shipping movement after peace 205

Exposition of conditions, in a contemporary letter by a naval officer 207

The experiences of the War of 1812 now largely forgotten 208

Lessons to be deduced 208

Pressure upon the British Government exerted, even by the puny contemporary American Navy 209

Advantage of the American position 211

Opinions of Presidents Washington and Adams as to the international advantage of a navy 212

Policy of President Jefferson 213

CHAPTER XIV

MARITIME OPERATIONS EXTERNAL TO THE WATERS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1813-1814

Commerce destruction the one offensive maritime resort left open to the United States 215

Respective objects of privateers and of naval vessels 216

The approaches to the British islands the most fruitful field for operations against commerce 216

Cruise of the "Argus" 217

Capture of the "Argus" by the "Pelican" 217

Significance of the cruise of the "Argus" 219

Great number of captures by American cruisers 220

Comparatively few American merchant ships captured at sea 221

Shows the large scale on which British commerce throve, and the disappearance of American shipping 221

Control of British Navy shown by American practice of destroying prizes 222

Successes of the privateers "Scourge" and "Rattlesnake" in the North Sea 223

The "Leo" and "Lion" off coast of Portugal 224

British army in southern France incommoded by cruisers off Cape Finisterre 224

American cruises based on French ports 225

The privateer "Yankee" on the gold-coast of Africa 226

Action between the American privateer "Globe" and two British packets, off Madeira 227

Captures in the same neighborhood by privateers "Governor Tompkins" and "America" 228

The West Indies as a field for warfare on commerce 229

Activity there of American cruisers 230

Stringency of the Convoy Act in the West Indies. Papers captured there by the "Constitution" 230

Indirect effects of the warfare on commerce 231

Cruise in the West Indies of the naval brigs "Rattlesnake" and "Enterprise" 232

Combat between the privateer "Decatur" and British war schooner "Dominica" 233

The "Comet" and the British ship "Hibernia" 234

The "Saucy Jack" and the British ship "Pelham" 235

The "Saucy Jack" with the bomb-ship "Volcano" and transport "Golden Fleece" 236

Remarkable seizure by the privateer "Kemp" 237

The cruises of the privateer "Chasseur" 237

Combat between the "Chasseur" and the British war schooner "St. Lawrence" 238

Contrasted motives of the ship of war and the privateer 241

Relative success of American naval vessels and privateers in the war upon commerce 242

Cruise of the frigate "Essex" 244

Arrival in Valparaiso of the "Essex," and of the British ships, "Phoebe" and "Cherub" 247

Action between the "Essex" and the "Phoebe" and "Cherub" 249

Cruise of the "Wasp" 253

Action between the "Reindeer" and "Wasp" 254

Action between the "Avon" and "Wasp" 256

Disappearance of the "Wasp" 257

Cruise of the "Peacock" 258

Action between "Epervier" and "Peacock" 259

Further cruise of the "Peacock" 261

Activity of American cruisers in British waters 262

Agitation in Great Britain 263

The effect produced due to the American people severally 265

Prostration of the Government in the United States, 1814 265

Determination to accept peace without relinquishment of impressment by Great Britain 266

Development of privateering 267

Adaptation of vessels to the pursuit 268

Practical considerations determining vessels to be employed 269

Secretary of the Navy recommends squadrons of schooners for action against commerce 270

Debate in Congress 271

Recommendation adopted 272

CHAPTER XV

THE NIAGARA CAMPAIGN, AND EVENTS ON THE GREAT LAKES, IN 1814

British advantages of position on the Niagara line 274

Unusual mildness of winter 1813-1814 276

Effect on operations 276

British project against the vessels in Put-in Bay 277

Difficulty of maintaining British garrison at Mackinac 278

American army abandons cantonments at French Mills 278

Part goes to Lake Champlain, part to Sackett's Harbor 278

American project against Kingston 279

General Brown's mistake as to the Government's purpose 280

Carries his army to the Niagara frontier 281

Chauncey's fears for Sackett's Harbor 281

Wilkinson's expedition to La Colle. Failure 282

Wilkinson superseded by General Izard 283

Yeo obtains momentary superiority on Ontario 283

Importance of Oswego 284

British capture Oswego, and destroy depots 284

Yeo blockades Sackett's Harbor 285

Difficulty of American situation on Ontario 285

British naval disaster in attempting to intercept convoy from Oswego to Sackett's Harbor 286

Yeo abandons blockade of Sackett's Harbor 290

American plan of operations on northern frontier 291

Brown crosses the Niagara. Surrender of Fort Erie 294

Advance towards Fort George 294

Battle of Chippewa 295

Brown advances to Queenston 298

Chauncey's failure to co-operate 298

Consequent anxiety of the Government 299

Decatur ordered to relieve Chauncey 300

Chauncey's defence of his conduct 300

Discussion of his argument 301

British advantage through his inaction 304

Leads to the battle of Lundy's Lane 306

Battle of Lundy's Lane 309

Value to Americans of the battles of Chippewa and Lundy's Lane 311

Improvement in the militia through association with Brown's army 312

Brown unable longer to keep the field. Retires to Fort Erie 314

British assault upon Fort Erie. Disastrous repulse 314

British now embarrassed by Chauncey's blockade 315

American successful sortie from Fort Erie 316

Drummond abandons the siege, and retires to the Chippewa 317

Brown unable to follow him 317

Izard ordered from Lake Champlain to Brown's aid 318

His march 320

His corps arrives at the Niagara frontier 321

Strength of the British position on the Chippewa 322

Izard's hopelessness 322

Blows up Fort Erie and retires across the Niagara 323

Naval and military expedition against Mackinac 324

Unsuccessful, except in destroying British transports 324

British capture the American naval schooners "Tigress" and "Scorpion" 325

American schooners "Ohio" and "Somers" also captured, off Fort Erie 327

Loss of the "Caledonia" and "Ariel" 327

The Erie fleet lays up for the winter, after the British abandon the siege of Fort Erie 328

CHAPTER XVI

SEABOARD OPERATIONS IN 1814. WASHINGTON, BALTIMORE, AND MAINE

Defensive character of the British northern campaign in 1814 329

Increase of vigor in their seaboard operations 330

Warren relieved by Cochrane 330

Intentions of the British Government 331

Retaliation for American actions in Canada 333

Prevost's call upon Cochrane to retaliate 334

Cochrane's orders to his vessels 334

Attitude of British officers 335

Early operations in Chesapeake Bay, 1814 336

Relations of Barney's flotilla to the British project against Washington 337

Assembling of the British combined forces in the Chesapeake 340

Condition of American preparations 342

British advance. Destruction of Barney's flotilla 344

Retreat of American forces 345

American position at Bladensburg 346

Battle of Bladensburg 347

Burning of Washington 349

Capture and ransom of Alexandria by British frigates 350

Failure of British attempt on Baltimore 351

British harrying of New England coast 352

Occupation of Castine, in Maine 353

Destruction of the American frigate "Adams" 354

CHAPTER XVII

LAKE CHAMPLAIN AND NEW ORLEANS

Arrival of large British re-enforcements in Canada 355

Objects of the British northern campaign of 1814 356

Previous neglect of lake Champlain by both belligerents 357

Operations on the lake in 1813 358

British attempt in spring of 1814 361

Macdonough in control of lake, in summer of 1814 362

British "Confiance" building to contest control 362

Instructions of British Government to Prevost 362

Prevost in August reports approaching readiness to move 363

Treasonable actions of American citizens about Lake Champlain 364

Izard, with four thousand troops, leaves Plattsburg for Sackett's Harbor 365

Consequent destitution of the Champlain frontier 365

British advance to Plattsburg 366

Relative positions of American squadron and land forces 367

Question of distance between squadron and land batteries 368

Opinions of Izard and Yeo as to the relations of the batteries to the squadron 370

Proper combination for Prevost 371

Backward state of "Confiance" upon Downie's taking command 372

Urgent letters of Prevost to Downie 373

Downie's expectations in attacking 375

Macdonough's dispositions 376

Downie's consequent plan of engagement 377

Naval battle of Lake Champlain 377

Decisive character of the American victory 381

Preoccupation of the British Government with European conditions 382

Episodical character of the New Orleans expedition 382

Negotiations of Admiral Cochrane for the co-operation of the Creek Indians 383

His measures for training them, and preparations for the expedition 384

Objects of the British ministry 385

Attack upon Fort Bowyer, Mobile Bay, by a British squadron 386

Previous occupation of West Florida to the Perdido, by the United States 387

Pensacola, remaining in Spanish hands, utilized by British 387

Seized by Jackson, and works destroyed 388

Arrival of British expedition in Mississippi Sound 388

Gunboat battle of Lake Borgne 390

British advance corps reaches the bank of the Mississippi 391

Night attack by American Navy and Jackson 391

Sir Edward Pakenham arrives from England 392

His preliminary movements 392

Particular danger of Jackson's position 393

Details of the final day of assault, January 8, 1815 394

The British withdraw after repulse 396

Capture of Fort Bowyer, Mobile Bay 397

Final naval episodes 397

Sailing of the "President." She grounds on the New York bar 398

Overtaken, and is captured, by the British blockading division 398

The "Constitution" captures the "Cyane" and "Levant" 404

Capture of the British sloop "Penguin" by the "Hornet" 407

CHAPTER XVIII

THE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

Early overtures towards peace by the United States 409

Castlereagh refuses to entertain the project of abandoning impressment 410

Russia, in 1812, suggests negotiations for peace under mediation of the Czar 411

United States accepts, but Great Britain refuses 412

Great Britain, through the Czar, offers a direct negotiation, 1813 412

The United States accepts, and names five commissioners 413

The original instructions to the American Commission, 1813 413

Reduced, 1814, through pressure of the war 414

Confident attitude of Great Britain at the opening of the negotiations 415

Hostile spirit in Great Britain towards the United States 415

The instructions to the British Commission 416

The demand on behalf of the Indians 417

Faulty presentation of it by the British Commission 418

British claim concerning the Great Lakes and boundaries 419

Discussion of these propositions 419

Reasons for British advocacy of the Indians 421

Final reduction of British demand for the Indians and acceptance by American Commission 423

Concern of British ministry for the opinion of Europe 424

News received of the capture of Washington 424

Sanguine anticipations based upon reports from Cochrane and Ross 424

The British Government suggests the uti possidetis as the basis of agreement 425

The American Commission refuse, and offer instead the status ante bellum 426

News arrives of the British defeat on Lake Champlain 426

The political instructions to the commanders of the New Orleans expedition, to be communicated for the satisfaction of the continental powers 427

Urgency of the European situation 428

Dangerous internal state of France 428

Consequent wish of the British ministry to withdraw Wellington from Paris 429

He is pressed to accept the American command 429

Wellington thus brought into the discussion of terms 430

He pronounces against the basis of uti possidetis 431

The British ministry accept his judgment 431

The status ante bellum accepted by Great Britain 431

Subsequent rapid conclusion of agreement 432

Terms of the Treaty 432

Signed by the commissioners, December 24, 1814 434

Despatched to America by a British ship of war 435

Ratified by the United States, February 17, 1815 435

Gallatin's opinion of the effect of the war upon the people of the United States 436

INDEX 439



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

VOLUME TWO.

THE CHASE OF THE Constitution Frontispiece From the painting by S. Salisbury Tuckerman.

THE QUARTERDECK OF THE Java BEFORE THE SURRENDER Page 6 From a drawing by Henry Reuterdahl.

THE NEW CARRYING TRADE Page 18 From a drawing by Stanley M. Arthurs.

THE RETREAT OF THE BRITISH FROM SACKETT'S HARBOR Page 44 From a drawing by Henry Reuterdahl.

THE FLEETS OF CHAUNCEY AND YEO MANOEUVRING ON LAKE CHAMPLAIN Page 52 From a drawing by Carlton T. Chapman.

CAPTAIN ISAAC CHAUNCEY Page 60 From the engraving by D. Edwin, after the painting by J. Woods.

CAPTAIN SIR JAMES LUCAS YEO Page 60 From the engraving by H.R. Cook, after the painting by A. Buck.

CAPTAIN OLIVER HAZARD PERRY Page 66 From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in the possession of O.H. Perry, Esq.

PERRY RECEIVING THE SURRENDER OF THE BRITISH AT THE BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE Page 94 From a drawing by Henry Reuterdahl.

CAPTAIN PHILIP BOWES VERE BROKE Page 134 From the mezzotint by Charles Turner, after the painting by Samuel Lane, in the possession of Lady Saumarez.

THE CAPTURE OF THE Chesapeake BY THE Shannon—THE STRUGGLE ON THE QUARTERDECK Page 138 From a drawing by Henry Reuterdahl.

CAPTAIN JAMES LAWRENCE Page 140 From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in the possession of the New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, N.J.

THE BURNING OF A PRIVATEER PRIZE Page 222 From a drawing by Henry Reuterdahl.

CAPTAIN DAVID PORTER Page 244 From the painting by Charles Wilson Peale, in Independence Hall, Philadelphia.

CAPTAIN THOMAS MACDONOUGH Page 360 From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in the Century Club, New York, by permission of the owner, Rodney Macdonough, Esq.

THE BATTLE OF LAKE CHAMPLAIN Page 380 From a drawing by Henry Reuterdahl.



MAPS AND BATTLE PLANS.

VOLUME TWO.

Plan of Engagement between Constitution and Java Page 4

Plan of Engagement between Hornet and Peacock Page 8

Map of Niagara Peninsula Page 38

Surroundings of Sackett's Harbor Page 43

Plan of Chauncey's Engagement, August 10, 1813 Page 58

Plan of Erie Harbor, 1814 Page 72

Diagram of the Battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813 Page 82

Chauncey and Yeo, September 28, 1813 Page 108

Chesapeake and Shannon Page 136

Outline Map of Chesapeake Bay and Rivers Page 156

Enterprise and Boxer Page 188

Argus and Pelican Page 218

Montague, Pelham, and Globe Page 228

Chasseur and St. Lawrence Page 238

Wasp and Reindeer Page 254

Sketch of the March of the British Army, under General Ross, from the 19th to the 29th August, 1814 Page 344

Tracing from pencil sketch of Battle of Lake Champlain made by Commodore Macdonough Page 368

Battle of Lake Champlain Page 377

The Landing of the British Army, its Encampments and Fortifications on the Mississippi; Works they erected on their Retreat; with the Encampments and Fortifications of the American Army Page 392



Sea Power in its Relations to the War of 1812

THE WAR (Continued)

CHAPTER IX

THE WINTER OF 1812-1813—BAINBRIDGE'S SQUADRON: ACTIONS BETWEEN "CONSTITUTION" AND "JAVA," "HORNET" AND "PEACOCK"—INCREASING PRESSURE ON ATLANTIC COAST

The squadron under Commodore William Bainbridge, the third which sailed from the United States in October, 1812, started nearly three weeks after the joint departure of Rodgers and Decatur. It consisted of the "Constitution" and sloop of war "Hornet," then in Boston, and of the "Essex," the only 32-gun frigate in the navy, fitting for sea in the Delaware. The original armament of the latter, from which she derived her rate, had been changed to forty 32-pounder carronades and six long twelves; total, forty-six guns. It is noticeable that this battery, which ultimately contributed not merely to her capture, but to her almost helplessness under the fire of an enemy able to maintain his distance out of carronade range, was strongly objected to by Captain Porter. On October 14 he applied to be transferred to the "Adams," giving as reasons "my insuperable dislike to carronades, and the bad sailing of the "Essex," which render her, in my opinion, the worst frigate in the service."[1] The request was not granted, and Porter sailed in command of the ship on October 28, the two other vessels having left Boston on the 26th.

In order to facilitate a junction, Bainbridge had sent Porter full details of his intended movements.[2] A summary of these will show his views as to a well-planned commerce-destroying cruise. Starting about October 25, he would steer first a course not differing greatly from the general direction taken by Rodgers and Decatur, to the Cape Verde Islands, where he would fill with water, and by November 27 sail for the island Fernando de Noronha, two hundred and fifty miles south of the Equator, and two hundred miles from the mainland of Brazil, then a Portuguese colony, of which the island was a dependency. The trade winds being fair for this passage, he hoped to leave there by December 15, and to cruise south along the Brazilian coast as far as Rio de Janeiro, until January 15. In the outcome the meeting of the "Constitution" with the "Java" cut short her proceedings at this point; but Bainbridge had purposed to stay yet another month along the Brazilian coast, between Rio and St. Catherine's, three hundred miles south. Thence he would cross the South Atlantic to the neighborhood of St. Helena, remaining just beyond sight of it, to intercept returning British Indiamen, which frequently stopped there. Porter failed to overtake the other vessels, on account of the bad sailing of the "Essex." He arrived at Fernando de Noronha December 14, one day before that fixed by Bainbridge as his last there; but the "Constitution" and "Hornet" had already gone on to Bahia, on the Brazilian mainland, seven hundred miles to the southwest, leaving a letter for him to proceed off Cape Frio, sixty miles from the entrance of Rio. He reached this rendezvous on the 25th, but saw nothing of Bainbridge, who had been detained off Bahia by conditions there. The result was that the "Essex" never found her consorts, and finally struck out a career for herself, which belongs rather to a subsequent period of the war. We therefore leave her spending her Christmas off Cape Frio.

The two other vessels had arrived off Bahia on December 13. Here was lying a British sloop of war, the "Bonne Citoyenne," understood to have on board a very large amount of specie for England. The American vessels blockaded her for some days, and then Captain Lawrence challenged her to single combat; Bainbridge acquiescing, and pledging his honor that the "Constitution" should remain out of the way, or at least not interfere. The British captain, properly enough, declined. That his ship and her reported value were detaining two American vessels from wider depredations was a reason more important than any fighting-cock glory to be had from an arranged encounter on equal terms, and should have sufficed him without expressing the doubt he did as to Bainbridge's good faith.[3] On the 26th the Commodore, leaving Lawrence alone to watch the British sloop, stood out to sea with the "Constitution," cruising well off shore; and thus on the 29th, at 9 A.M., being then five miles south of the port and some miles from land, discovered two strange sail, which were the British frigate "Java," Captain Henry Lambert, going to Bahia for water, with an American ship, prize to her.

Upon seeing the "Constitution" in the south-southwest, the British captain shaped his course for her, directing the prize to enter the harbor. Bainbridge, watching these movements, now tacked his ship, and at 11.30 A.M. steered away southeast under all plain sail, to draw the enemy well away from neutral waters; the Portuguese authorities having shown some sensitiveness on that score. The "Java" followed, running full ten miles an hour, a great speed in those days, and gaining rapidly. At 1.30, being now as far off shore as desired, Bainbridge went about and stood toward the enemy, who kept away with a view to rake, which the "Constitution" avoided by the usual means of wearing, resuming her course southeast, but under canvas much reduced. At 2.10 the "Java," having closed to a half mile, the "Constitution" fired one gun ahead of her; whereupon the British ship hoisted her colors, and the American then fired two broadsides. The "Java" now took up a position to windward of the "Constitution," on her port side, a little forward (2.10); "within pistol-shot," according to the minutes submitted by the officer who succeeded to the command; "much further than I wished," by Bainbridge's journal. It is not possible entirely to reconcile the pretty full details of further movements given by each;[4] but it may be said, generally, that this battle was not mainly an artillery duel, like those of the "Constitution" and "Guerriere," the "Wasp" and "Frolic," nor yet one in which a principal manoeuvre, by its decisive effect upon the use of artillery, played the determining part, as was the case with the "United States" and "Macedonian." Here it was a combination of the two factors, a succession of evolutions resembling the changes of position, the retreats and advances, of a fencing or boxing match, in which the opponents work round the ring; accompanied by a continual play of the guns, answering to the thrusts and blows of individual encounter. In this game of manoeuvres the "Constitution" was somewhat handicapped by her wheel being shot away at 2.30. The rudder remained unharmed; but working a ship by relieving tackles, the substitute for the wheel, is for several reasons neither as quick nor as accurate.



Certain salient incidents stand out in both accounts, marking the progress of the engagement. Shortly before three o'clock the head of the "Java's" bowsprit was shot away, and with it went the jib-boom. At this time, the fore and main masts of the British frigate being badly wounded, with all the rigging cut to pieces, Captain Lambert looked upon the day as lost unless he could board. The sailing master having been sent below wounded, the first lieutenant, whose account is here followed, was directed to run the ship alongside the enemy; but the helm was hardly put up when the foremast went overboard, at five minutes past three, a time in which both accounts agree. The British narrative states that the stump of their bowsprit caught in the mizzen rigging of the "Constitution" (3.35). This Bainbridge does not mention; but, if correct, the contact did not last long, for the "Constitution" immediately wore across the "Java's" bow, and the latter's maintopmast followed the foremast. The British frigate was now beaten beyond recovery; nevertheless the flag was kept flying, and it was after this that Captain Lambert fell, mortally wounded. Resistance was continued until 4.05, by the American accounts; by the British, till 4.35. Then, the enemy's mizzenmast having fallen, and nothing left standing but the main lower mast, the "Constitution" shot ahead to repair damages. There was no more firing, but the "Java's" colors remained up till 5.25,—5.50 by the British times,—when they were hauled down as the "Constitution" returned. The American loss was nine killed and twenty-five wounded; that of the British, by their official accounts, twenty-two killed, one hundred and two wounded.

The superiority in broadside weight of fire of the "Constitution" over the "Java" was about the same as over the "Guerriere." The "Java's" crew was stronger in number than that of the "Guerriere," mustering about four hundred, owing to having on board a hundred supernumeraries for the East India station, to which the ship was ultimately destined. On the other hand, the material of the ship's company is credibly stated to have been extremely inferior, a condition frequently complained of by British officers at this late period of the Napoleonic wars. It has also been said, in apparent extenuation of her defeat, that although six weeks out from England, having sailed November 12, and greater part of that time necessarily in the trade winds, with their usual good weather, the men had not been exercised in firing the guns until December 28, the day before meeting the "Constitution," when six broadsides of blank cartridges were discharged. Whatever excuse may exist in the individual instance for such neglect, it is scarcely receivable in bar of judgment when disaster follows. No particular reason is given, except "the many services of a newly fitted ship, lumbered with stores;" for in such latitudes the other allegation, "a succession of gales of wind since the day of departure,"[5] is incredible. On broad general grounds the "Java" needed no apology for being beaten by a ship so much heavier; and the "Constitution's" loss in killed and wounded was over double that suffered from the "Guerriere" four months before, when the American ship had substantially the same crew.[6] Further, Bainbridge reported to his Government that "the damage received in the action, but more especially the decayed state of the "Constitution," made it necessary to return to the United States for repairs." Although Lieutenant Chads, who succeeded Lambert, was mistaken in supposing the American ship bound to the East Indies, he was evidently justified in claiming that the stout resistance of the "Java" had broken up the enemy's cruise, thus contributing to the protection of the British commerce.



The "Java" was considered by Bainbridge too much injured to be worth taking to the United States. She was therefore set on fire December 31, and the "Constitution" went back to Bahia, where the prisoners were landed under parole. Thence she sailed for home January 6, 1813, reaching Boston February 27. Before his departure the Commodore directed Lawrence to blockade Bahia as long as seemed advisable, but to beware of a British seventy-four, said to be on the coast. When it became expedient, he was to quit the position and move northward; first off Pernambuco, and thence to the coast of Cayenne, Surinam, and Demerara, a favorite cruising ground for American commerce-destroyers. The "Hornet" was to be in Boston in the first fortnight of April.

In pursuance of these discretionary orders Lawrence remained off Bahia for eighteen days, till January 24, when the expected seventy-four, the "Montagu," appeared, forcing him into the harbor; but the same night he came out, gave her the slip, and proceeded on his cruise. On February 24, off the Demarara River, he encountered the British brig of war "Peacock," a vessel of the same class as the "Frolic," which was captured a few months before by the "Wasp," sister ship to the "Hornet." There was no substantial difference in size between these two approaching antagonists; but, unfortunately for the equality of the contest, the "Peacock" carried 24-pounder carronades, instead of the 32's which were her proper armament. Her battery power was therefore but two thirds that of the "Hornet." The vessels crossed on opposite tacks, exchanging broadsides within half pistol-shot, the "Hornet" to windward(1). The "Peacock" then wore; observing which, Lawrence kept off at once for her and ran on board her starboard quarter (2). In this position the engagement was hot for about fifteen minutes, when the "Peacock" surrendered, hoisting a flag union down, in signal of distress. She had already six feet of water in the hold. Being on soundings, in less than six fathoms, both anchored, and every effort was made to save the British vessel; but she sank, carrying down nine of her own crew and three of the "Hornet's." Her loss in action was her commander and four men killed, and twenty-nine wounded, of whom three died; that of the American vessel, one killed and two wounded. The inequality in armament detracts inevitably from glory in achievement; but the credit of readiness and efficiency is established for Lawrence and his crew by prompt action and decisive results. So, also, defeat is not inglorious under such odds; but it remains to the discredit of the British commander that his ship did no more execution, when well within the most effective range of her guns. In commenting upon this engagement, after noticing the dandy neatness of the "Peacock," James says, "Neglect to exercise the ship's company at the guns prevailed then over two thirds of the British navy; to which the Admiralty, by their sparing allowance of powder and shot for practice, were in some degree instrumental."

With the survivors of the "Peacock," and prisoners from other prizes, Captain Lawrence found himself now with two hundred and seventy-seven souls on board and only thirty-four hundred gallons of water. There was at hand no friendly port where to deposit his captives, and provisions were running short. He therefore steered for the United States, and arrived at Holmes' Hole on March 19.[7]



The capture of the "Peacock" was the last of five naval duels, three between frigates and two between sloops, all favorable in issue to the United States, which took place in what may justly be considered the first of the three periods into which the War of 1812 obviously divides. Great Britain, long reluctant to accept the fact of war as irreversible, did not begin to put forth her strength, or to exercise the measures of repression open to her, until the winter of 1812-13 was drawing to a close. On October 13, convinced that the mere news of the revocation of the Orders in Council would not induce any change in the American determination, the hitherto deferred authority for general reprisals was given; but accompanying them was an express provision that they were not to be understood as recalling the declaration which Warren had been commissioned to make, in order to effect a suspension of hostilities.[8] On November 27, however, hopes from this source having apparently disappeared, directions were sent the admiral to institute a rigorous commercial blockade of Delaware and Chesapeake bays,[9] the usual public notification of the fact to neutral Powers, for the information of their shipping affected by it, being issued December 26, three days before the action between the "Constitution" and "Java." On February 21, three days before the "Hornet" sank the "Peacock," Warren wrote that in compliance with the orders of November 27 this blockade had been put in force. The ship "Emily," from Baltimore for Lisbon, under a British license, with a cargo of flour, was turned back when attempting to go to sea from the Chesapeake, about February 5; Warren indorsing on her papers that the bay had been placed under rigorous blockade the day before.[10] Captain Stewart, the senior United States officer at Norfolk, notified his Government of these facts on February 10.[11] Soon after, by an Order in Council dated March 30, the measure was extended to New York, Charleston, Port Royal, Savannah, and the Mississippi River.[12] Later in the year Warren, by a sweeping proclamation, dated November 16,[13] widened its scope to cover Long Island Sound, inside of Montauk and Black Point; the latter being on the Connecticut shore, eight miles west of New London. From thence it applied not only to the ports named, but to all inlets whatsoever, southward, as far as the Florida boundary. Narragansett Bay and the rest of New England remained still exempt.

These restrictions, together with the increase of Warren's force and the operations of 1813 in the Chesapeake, may be considered as initiating the second stage of the war, when Great Britain no longer cherished hopes of any other solution than by the sword, but still was restrained in the exercise of her power by the conflict with Napoleon. With the downfall of the latter, in April, 1814, began the third and final act, when she was more at liberty to let loose her strength, to terminate a conflict at once weakening and exasperating. It is not without significance that the treaty of peace with the restored Bourbon government of France was signed May 30, 1814,[14] and that on May 31 was issued a proclamation placing under strict and rigorous blockade, not merely specified places, but "all the ports, harbors, bays, creeks, rivers, inlets, outlets, islands, and sea-coasts of the United States," from the border of New Brunswick to that of Florida.[15] In form, this was only the public notification of a measure already instituted by Warren's successor, Cochrane, embracing Newport, Boston, and the East under restrictions heretofore limited to New York—including Long Island Sound—and the coast southward; but it was not merely the assertion of a stringent resolution. It was a clear defiance, in the assurance of conscious power, of a principal contention of the United States, that the measure of blockades against neutrals was not legitimately applicable to whole coasts, but only to specified ports closely watched by a naval force competent to its avowed purpose.

Despite the gathering of the storm, the full force of which was to be expected in the spring, the United States ships of war that reached port in the early and middle winter of 1812-13 remained. There is, perhaps, an unrecognized element of "hindsight" in the surprise felt at this fact by a seaman of to-day, knowing the views and wishes of the prominent officers of the navy at that period. Decatur, with the "United States," reached New York in December, accompanied by the "Macedonian." Neither of these vessels got to sea again during the war. By the time they were ready, both outlets to the port were effectually blocked. Rodgers, with the "President" and "Congress," entered Boston December 31, but did not sail again until April 23. The "Constellation," Captain Stewart, was reported, perhaps erroneously, as nearly ready for sea at Washington, November 26, waiting only for a few additional hands. Later in the winter she went to Annapolis, to examine her powder, leaving there for Hampton Roads February 1, on account of the ice. On the 4th, approaching her destination, she discovered two ships of the line, three frigates, and two smaller British vessels, working up from the Capes for the Roads. In the face of such a force there was nothing to do but to escape to Norfolk, where she remained effectually shut up for the rest of the war. Bainbridge, as already known, brought the "Constitution" back for repairs in February. Even from Boston she was unable to escape till the following December.

That there were satisfactory reasons for this seeming dilatoriness is assured by the character of the officers. Probably the difficulty of keeping up the ship's companies, in competition with the superior attractions of privateering and the very high wages offered by the merchants for their hazardous but remunerative commercial voyages accounted for much. Hull wrote from New York, October 29, 1812, that the merchants fitting out their vessels gave such high wages that it was difficult to get either seamen or workmen.[16] Where no system of forced enrolment—conscription or impressment—is permitted, privateering has always tended to injure the regular naval service. Though unquestionably capable of being put by owners on a business basis, as a commercial undertaking, with the individual seaman the appeal of privateering has always been to the stimulants of chance and gain, which prove so attractive in the lottery. Stewart, an officer of great intelligence and experience in his profession, found a further cause in the heavy ships of the enemy. In the hostilities with France in 1798-1800, he said, "We had nearly four thousand able seamen in the navy. We could frequently man a frigate in a week. One reason was because the enemy we were then contending with had not afloat (with very few exceptions) vessels superior in rate to frigates. The enemy we are fighting now have ships of the line, and our sailors know the great difference between them and frigates, and cannot but feel a degree of reluctance at entering the service from the disparity of force."[17] The reason seems to prove too much; pressed to an extreme, no navy would be able to use light vessels, because the enemy had heavier which might—or might not—be encountered. Certain it is, however, that when the government in the following winter, in order to stop the license trade with the enemy, embargoed all vessels in home ports, much less difficulty was experienced in getting seamen for the navy.

Whatever the reasons, the only frigates at sea during the first four months of 1813 were the "Essex" and the "Chesapeake." The former, after failing to meet Bainbridge, struck off boldly for the Pacific Ocean on Porter's own motion; and on March 15, 1813, anchored at Valparaiso, preparatory to entering on a very successful career of a year's duration in those seas. The "Chesapeake" had sailed from Boston December 17, making for the Cape Verde Islands. In their neighborhood she captured two of a British convoy, which, thinking itself beyond danger, had dispersed for South American destinations. The frigate then proceeded to her cruising ground near the equator, between longitudes 24 deg. and 30 deg. west, where she remained for about a month, taking only one other merchantman. Leaving this position, she was off the coast of Surinam from March 2 to 6, when she returned to the United States; passing sixty miles east of the Caribbean Islands and thence north of Porto Rico and Santo Domingo, as far west as longitude 75 deg., whence she ran parallel to the American coast, reaching Boston April 9. Having seen nothing between February 5 and March 19, she then began to meet sails, speaking eight between the latter date and her arrival. Most of these were Americans, homeward bound from the Spanish peninsula; the others neutrals.[18] The conclusion is evident, that the British were keeping their trade well shepherded in convoys. If a ship like the "Chesapeake" struck one of them, she would probably have to fight the escorting vessel, as the "Wasp" did the "Frolic," while the merchantmen escaped; but the chances were against her seeing anything. Another evident conclusion, corresponding to the export returns already quoted, is that the enemy had not yet shut down upon the access of American merchant ships to their own coast.

This process was gradual, but steady. It is necessary to keep in mind the distinction between a blockade, in the loose use of the term, which closes a port only to the ships of the hostile nation, and the commercial blockade which forbids neutrals as well. The former may be intermittent, for the mere fact of war authorizes the capture of the belligerent's shipping, wherever found; hence to intercept them at the mouths of their own harbors is merely a more effectual method of carrying out the measure. A blockade against neutrals requires the permanent presence, before the blockaded port, of a force adequate to make the attempt to enter or leave dangerous. For this many more ships are needed. The British ministry, desirous chiefly to compel the United States to peace, and embarrassed by the gigantic continental strife in which it was engaged, sought at the outset to inflict such harassment on the American coast as would cost the least diversion of strength from the European contest. An ordinary blockade might be tightened or relaxed as convenience demanded; and, moreover, there were as yet, in comparison with American vessels, few neutrals to be restrained. Normally, American shipping was adequate to American commerce. The first move, therefore, was to gather upon the coast of the United States all cruisers that could be spared from the Halifax and West India stations, and to dispose along the approaches to the principal ports those that were not needed to repress the privateers in the Bay of Fundy and the waters of Nova Scotia. The action of these privateers, strictly offensive in character, and the course of Commodore Rodgers in sailing with a large squadron, before explained, illustrate exactly how offensive operations promote defensive security. With numbers scanty for their work, and obliged to concentrate instead of scattering, the British, prior to Warren's arrival, had not disposable the cruisers with which greatly to harass even the hostile shipping, still less to institute a commercial blockade. The wish to stock the Spanish peninsula and the West Indies with provisions contributed further to mitigate the pressure.

These restraining considerations gradually disappeared. Re-enforcements arrived. Rodgers' squadron returned and could be watched, its position being known. The license trade filled up Lisbon, Cadiz, and the West Indies. Hopes of a change of mind in the American Government lessened. Napoleon's disaster in Russia reversed the outlook in European politics. Step by step the altered conditions were reflected in the measures of the British ministry and navy. For months, only the maritime centres of the Middle States were molested. The senior naval officer at Charleston, South Carolina, wrote on October 14, four months after war was declared, "Till to-day this coast has been clear of enemy's cruisers; now Charleston is blockaded by three brigs, two very large, and they have captured nine sail within three miles of the bar."[19] The number was increased shortly; and two months later he expressed surprise that the inland navigation behind the sea islands had not been destroyed,[20] in consequence of its defenceless state. In January, 1813, the mouth of the Chesapeake was watched by a ship of the line, two frigates, and a sloop; the commercial blockade not having been yet established. The hostile divisions still remained outside, and American vessels continued to go out and in with comparative facility, both there and at Charleston. A lively trade had sprung up with France by letters-of-marque; that is, by vessels whose primary object is commerce, and which therefore carry cargoes, but have also guns, and a commission from the Government to make prizes. Without such authorization capture is piracy. By February 12 conditions grow worse. The blockaders have entered the Chesapeake, the commercial blockade has been proclaimed, vessels under neutral flags, Spanish and Swedish, are being turned away, and two fine letter-of-marque schooners have been captured inside, one of them after a gallant struggle in which her captain was killed. Nautical misadventures of that kind became frequent. On April 3 three letters-of-marque and a privateer, which had entered the Rappahannock, were attacked at anchor by boats from Warren's fleet. The letters-of-marque, with smaller crews, offered little resistance to boarding; but the privateer, having near a hundred men, made a sharp resistance. The Americans lost six killed and ten wounded; the enemy, two killed and eleven wounded.[21]

In like manner the lower Delaware was occupied by one or more ships of the line. Supported thus by a heavy squadron, hostile operations were pushed to the upper waters of both bays, and in various directions; the extensive water communications of the region offering great facilities for depredation. Dismay and incessant disquietude spread through all quarters of the waterside. Light cruisers make their way above Reedy Island, fifty miles from the Capes of the Delaware; coasting vessels are chased into the Severn River, over a hundred miles above Hampton Roads; and a detachment appears even at the mouth of the Patapsco, twelve miles from Baltimore. The destruction of bay craft, and interruption of water traffic, show their effects in the rise of marketing and fuel to double their usual prices. By May 1, all intercourse by water was stopped, and Philadelphia was also cut off from the lower Delaware. Both Philadelphia and Baltimore were now severed from the sea, and their commerce destroyed, not to revive till after the peace; while alarms, which the near future was to justify, were felt for the land road which connected the two cities. As this crossed the head waters of the Chesapeake, it was open to attack from ships, which was further invited by deposits of goods in transit at Elkton and Frenchtown. Fears for the safety of Norfolk were felt by Captain Stewart, senior naval officer there. "When the means and force of the enemy are considered, and the state of this place for defence, it presents but a gloomy prospect for security."[22] Commodore Murray from Philadelphia reports serious apprehensions, consternation among the citizens, a situation daily more critical, and inadequate provision for resistance.[23] There, as everywhere, the impotence of the General Government has to be supplemented by local subscription and local energy.

At the same time, both northward and southward of these two great estuaries, the approach of spring brought ever increasing enemies, big and little, vexing the coasting trade; upon which, then as now, depended largely the exchange of products between different sections of the country. What it meant at that day to be reduced to communication by land may be realized from a contemporary quotation: "Four wagons loaded with dry goods passed to-day through Georgetown, South Carolina, for Charleston, forty-six days from Philadelphia."[24] Under the heading "New Carrying Trade" a Boston paper announces on April 28 the arrival of "a large number of teams from New Bedford with West India produce, and four Pennsylvania wagons, seventeen days from Philadelphia."[25] "The enemy has commenced his depredations on the coasting trade of the Eastern States on a very extensive scale, by several ships and sloops-of-war, and five or six active privateers. The United States brig "Argus" cruises at the entrance of Long Island Sound for the protection of trade, latterly jeopardized;"[26] a position from which she was soon driven by an overwhelming force. Hull, now commanding at Portsmouth, reports April 9, "several privateers on the Eastern coast, which have been successful in cutting coasters out of several harbors east." May 7: "A small force is indeed needed here; the enemy appear off the harbor nearly every day. A few days since, a little east of this, they burnt twelve coasters and chased several into this port."[27] The town is defenceless. The Governor of Rhode Island laments to the Legislature "the critical and exposed situation of our fellow-citizens in Newport, who are frequently menaced by the ships and vessels about Point Judith"; mentioning beside, "the burning of vessels in Narragansett Bay, and the destruction of our coasting trade, which deprives us of the usual and very necessary supplies of bread stuffs from other States."[28] The ship "Maddox," blockaded for two or three months in the Chesapeake, escaped in May, and reached Newport with five thousand barrels of flour. This is said to have reduced the price by $2.50 in Boston, where it was ranging at $17 to $18; while at Cadiz and Lisbon, thanks to British licenses and heavy stocking in anticipation of war, it stood at $12 to $13. The arrival at Machias of a captured British vessel, laden with wheat, was hailed "as a seasonable supply for the starving inhabitants of the eastward."[29]



Ships returning from abroad necessarily had to pass through the cruisers which interrupted the coasting trade. "Many valuable vessels arrive, making at times hairbreadth escapes." The trade of Baltimore and Philadelphia is thrown back upon New York and Boston; but both of these, and the eastern entrance of Long Island Sound, have hostile squadrons before them. The letter-of-marque schooner "Ned" has transmitted an experience doubtless undergone by many. Bound to Baltimore, she arrived off the Chesapeake April 18, and was chased away; tried to get into the Delaware on the 19th, but was headed off; made for Sandy Hook, and was again chased. Finally, she tried the east end of the Sound, and there made her way through four or five ships of war, reaching New York April 24.[30] Of course, under such circumstances trade rapidly dwindled. Only very fast and weatherly vessels could hope to cope with the difficulties. Of these the conspicuous type was the Baltimore schooner, which also had not too many eggs in one basket. In the general deprivation of commerce a lucky voyage was proportionately remunerative; but the high prices of the successful venture were but the complement and reflection of suffering in the community. The harbors, even of New York, became crowded with unemployed shipping.

This condition of things coastwise, supplemented by the activity of American privateers, induced abnormal conditions of navigation in the western Atlantic. The scanty success of Rodgers, Bainbridge, and the "Chesapeake" have been noted; and it may be observed that there was a great similarity in the directions taken by these and others. The Cape Verdes, the equator between 24 deg. and 30 deg. west, the Guiana coast, the eastern West Indies, Bermuda to Halifax, indicate a general line of cruising; with which coincides substantially a project submitted by Stewart, March 2, 1813, for a cruise by the "Constellation." These plans were conceived with intelligent reference to known British trade-routes; but, being met by the enemy with a rigid convoy system, it was often hard to find a sail. The scattered American traders were rapidly diminishing in numbers, retained in port as they arrived; and it is noted that a British division of four vessels, returning to Halifax after a four months' cruise between the Banks of Newfoundland and Bermuda, have captured only one American.[31] An American privateer, arriving at Providence after an absence of nearly four months, "vexing the whole Atlantic," reports not seeing a single enemy's merchant ship. Niles' return of prizes[32] to American cruisers, national as well as privateers, gives three hundred and five as the total for the first six months of the war; of which seventy-nine only seem to have been taken distant from the home shores. For the second six months, to June 30, 1813, the aggregate has fallen to one hundred and fifty-nine, of which, as far as can be probably inferred, ninety-one were captured in remote waters. Comparing with the preceding and subsequent periods, we find here evidently a time of transition, when American enterprise had not yet aroused to the fact that British precaution in the Western Hemisphere had made it necessary to seek prizes farther afield.

In view of the incompleteness of the data it is difficult to state more than broad conclusions. It seems fairly safe, however, to say that after the winter of 1812-13 American commerce dwindled very rapidly, till in 1814 it was practically annihilated; but that, prior to Napoleon's downfall, the necessities of the British Government, and the importunity of the British mercantile community, promoted a certain collusive intercourse by licenses, or by neutrals, real or feigned, between the enemy and the Eastern States of the Union, for the exportation of American produce. This trade, from the reasons which prompted it, was of course exempt from British capture. Subsidiary to it, as a partial relief to the loss of the direct American market, was fostered an indirect smuggling import from Great Britain, by way of Halifax and Montreal, which conduced greatly to the prosperity of both these places during the war, as it had during the preceding periods of commercial restriction. It was to maintain this contraband traffic, as well as to foster disaffection in an important section of the Union, that the first extension of the commercial blockade, issued by Warren from Bermuda, May 26, 1813, stopped short of Newport; while the distinction thus drawn was emphasized, by turning back vessels even with British licenses seeking to sail from the Chesapeake. By this insidious action the commercial prosperity of the country, so far as any existed, was centred about the Eastern States. It was, however, almost purely local. Little relief reached the Middle and South, which besides, as before mentioned, were thus drained of specie, while their products lay idle in their stores.

As regards relative captures made by the two belligerents, exact numbers cannot be affirmed; but from the lists transmitted a fairly correct estimate can be formed as to the comparative injury done in this way. It must be remembered that such losses, however grievous in themselves, and productive of individual suffering, have by no means the decisive effect produced by the stoppage of commerce, even though such cessation involves no more than the retention in harbor of the belligerent's ships, as the Americans were after 1812, or as had been the case during Jefferson's embargo of 1808. As that measure and its congeners failed in their object of bringing the British Government to terms, by deprivation of commerce, the pecuniary harm done the United States by them was much greater than that suffered in the previous years from the arbitrary action of Great Britain. She had seized, it was alleged, as many as nine hundred and seventeen American vessels,[33] many of which were condemned contrary to law, while the remainder suffered loss from detention and attendant expenses; but despite all this the commercial prosperity was such that the commercial classes were averse to resenting the insults and injury. It was the agricultural sections of the country, not the commercial, which forced on the war.

Niles' Register has transmitted a careful contemporary compilation of American captures, in closing which the editor affirmed that in the course of the war he had examined not less than ten, perhaps twelve, thousand columns of ship news, rejecting all prizes not accounted for by arrival or destruction. It is unlikely that data complete as he used are now attainable, even if an increase of accuracy in this point were worth the trouble of the search. Up to May 1, 1813, he records four hundred and eleven captures, in which are included the British ships of war as well as merchantmen; not a very material addition. The British Naval Chronicle gives the prize lists of the various British admirals. From these may be inferred in the same period at least three hundred seizures of American merchant vessels. Among these are a good many Chesapeake Bay craft, very small. This excludes privateers, but not letters-of-marque, which are properly cargo ships. Both figures are almost certainly underestimates; but not improbably the proportion of four to three is nearly correct. Granting, however, that the Americans had seized four British ships for every three lost by themselves, what does the fact establish as regards the effect upon the commerce of the two peoples? Take the simple report of a British periodical in the same month of May, 1813: "We are happy to announce the arrival of a valuable fleet from the West Indies, consisting of two hundred and twenty-six sail, under convoy of the "Cumberland," seventy-four, and three other ships of war."[34] This one fleet among many, safely entering port, numbers more than half of their total losses in the twelvemonth. Contrast this relative security with the experience of the "Ned," cited a few pages back, hunted from headland to headland on her home coast, and slipping in—a single ship by dexterous management—past foes from whom no countryman can pretend to shield her.

Even more mortifying to Americans, because under their very eyes, in sharp contrast to their sufferings, was the prosperity of Halifax and Canada. Vexed though British commerce was by the daring activity of American cruisers, the main streams continued to flow; diminished in volume, but not interrupted. The closure of American harbors threw upon the two ports named the business of supplying American products to the British forces, the British West Indies, and in measure to Great Britain itself. The same reason fixed in them the deposit of British goods, to be illicitly conveyed into the United States by the smuggling that went on actively along the northern seacoast and land frontier; a revival of the practices under the embargo of 1808. This underground traffic was of course inadequate to compensate for that lost by the war and the blockade; but it was quite sufficient to add immensely to the prosperity of these places, the communications of which with the sea were held open and free by the British navy, and in which centred what was left from one of the most important branches of British trade in the days of peace. Halifax, from its position on the sea, was the chief gainer. The effects of the war on it were very marked. Trade was active. Prices rose. Provisions were in great demand, to the profit of agriculture and fisheries. Rents doubled and trebled. The frequent arrival of prizes, and of ships of war going and coming, added to the transactions, and made money plentiful.[35]

Recalling the generalization already made, that the seacoast of the United States was strictly a defensive frontier, it will be recognized that the successive institution of the commercial blockades, first of the Chesapeake and Delaware in March, and afterward of the whole coast south of Newport, in May, were the offensive operations with which the British initiated the campaign of 1813. These blockades were supported, and their effects sustained and intensified, by an accumulation of naval force entirely beyond the competition of the American navy. In view of such overwhelming disparity, it was no longer possible, as in 1812, by assembling a squadron, to impose some measure of concentration upon the enemy, and thus to facilitate egress and ingress. The movements of the British had passed wholly beyond control. Their admiral was free to dispose his fleet as he would, having care only not to hazard a detachment weaker than that in the port watched. This was a condition perfectly easy of fulfilment with the numbers under his command. As a matter of fact, his vessels were distributed over the entire seacoast; and at every point, with the possible exception of Boston, the division stationed was so strong that escape was possible only by evasion, under cover of severe weather conditions.

Under such circumstances, the larger the ship the more difficult for her to get out. As early as the middle of April, Captain Jones, formerly of the "Wasp," and now commanding the "Macedonian" in New York, reports that "both outlets are at present strongly blocked, but I believe at dark of the moon we shall be able to pass without much risk."[36] May 22, when a moon had come and gone, Decatur, still on board the "United States," in company with which the "Macedonian" was to sail, thinks it will be better to try the Sound route. "The last gale, which promised the fairest opportunity for us to get out, ended in light southerly winds, which continued till the blockading ships had regained their stations."[37] A few days later, the attempt by the Sound resulted in the two being driven into New London, where they remained to the close of the war. The only offensive operation by sea open to the United States, the destruction of the enemy's commerce, fell therefore to the smaller cruisers and privateers, the size and numbers of which combined to make it impossible to restrain them all.

For defensive measures the seaboard depended upon such fortifications as existed, everywhere inadequate, but which either the laxness or the policy of the British commander did not attempt to overcome in the case of the seaports, narrowly so called. The wide-mouthed estuaries of the Chesapeake and Delaware, entrance to which could not thus be barred, bore, therefore, the full brunt of hostile occupation and widespread harassment. In this there may have been deliberate intention, as well as easy adoption of the readiest means of annoyance. The war, though fairly supported in the middle section of the Union, was essentially a Southern and Western measure. Its most strenuous fomenters came from those parts, and the administration was Virginian. The President himself had been identified with the entire course of Jefferson's commercial retaliation, and general policy toward Great Britain during twelve years past. It is impossible for land forces alone to defend against naval aggression a region like the Chesapeake, with its several great, and numerous small, streams penetrating the country in every direction; and matters are not helped when the defendants are loosely organized militia. The water in such a case offers a great central district, with interior lines, in the hands of a power to which belongs the initiative, with an overpowering mobile force, able at any moment to appear where it will in superior strength.

No wonder then that the local journals of the day speak of continual watchfulness, which from the present organization of the militia is exceedingly toilsome, and of no little derangement to the private affairs of the people.[38] The enemy spreads in every direction; and, although the alarm caused much exceeds the injury done, disquietude is extreme and universal. "Applications from various quarters are constantly pouring in upon us," wrote a Governor of Maryland to the President; "and as far as our very limited means will enable us we are endeavoring to afford protection. But we have not arms and ammunition to supply the demands of every section of the State; the unavoidable expense of calling out the militia for its protection would greatly exceed the ability of the State government. The capital of the State [which was three miles from the bay, on a navigable river] has not sufficient force for its protection. By the Constitution of the United States, the common defence is committed to the National Government, which is to protect each State against invasion, and to defray all necessary expenses of a national war; and to us it is a most painful reflection that after every effort we have made, or can make, for the security of our fellow-citizens and of their property, they have little to rely on but the possible forbearance of the enemy."[39] The process of reaping what has been sowed is at times extremely unpleasant.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Captains' Letters. Navy Department.

[2] Ibid., Bainbridge, Oct. 13, 1812.

[3] Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 25.

[4] Bainbridge's report is in the Captains' Letters. Navy Department, Jan. 3, 1813. It will be found also in Niles' Register, vol. iii. p. 410. Both give extracts from Bainbridge's journal, which is very full on the subject of manoeuvres and times. The British account will be found in the Naval Chronicle, vol. xxix. pp. 403-408, from which the plan of the battle is copied.

[5] James' Naval History, edition 1824, vol. v. p. 313.

[6] Bainbridge in a private letter speaks of the men looking forward to prize money for the "Guerriere" on their return. Niles' Register, vol. iii. p. 411.

[7] Lawrence's Report of these transactions is in Captains' Letters, March 19, 1813. It will be found also in Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 84.

[8] Naval Chronicle, vol. xxviii. p. 305.

[9] Admiralty to Warren, British Records Office.

[10] Niles' Register, vol. iii. p. 383.

[11] Captains' Letters.

[12] Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 159. The Admiralty's letter to Warren to institute this blockade is dated March 25. British Records Office.

[13] Niles' Register, vol. v. p. 264.

[14] Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxi. p. 464.

[15] Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxi. p. 475.

[16] Captains' Letters.

[17] American State Papers, Naval Affairs, vol. i. p. 280.

[18] Captain Evans' Report, April 10, 1813. Captains' Letters.

[19] Captains' Letters.

[20] Ibid, Dec. 17, 1812.

[21] Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 119. Naval Chronicle, vol. xxix. p. 501.

[22] March 17, 1813. Captains' Letters.

[23] March 17, 18, and 21. Ibid.

[24] Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 222.

[25] Columbian Centinel.

[26] Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 117.

[27] Captains' Letters.

[28] Message of the Governor of Rhode Island, May 5, 1813.

[29] Niles' Register, vol. iv. pp. 200, 209. There were reported in Cadiz at this time 160,000 barrels of flour, unsold. The Columbian Centinel (Feb. 17) speaks of the Lisbon market as deplorable.

[30] Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 150.

[31] Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 101.

[32] Ibid., p. 117.

[33] American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 584. France in the same period had seized five hundred and fifty-eight.

[34] Naval Chronicle, vol. xxix. p. 497. The following extract from an American journal may have interest as indicating the extent of the British convoy movement. "American brig 'Hazard,' arrived at New York from Madeira, June 5, reports: 'April 11, arrived at Funchal the outward bound East India and Brazil fleets, forty sail, under convoy. Sailed April 12. April 21, arrived outward bound Cork fleet, one hundred and eighty sail convoyed by a seventy-four, a frigate, and a sloop.' April 30, sailed from Jamaica, three hundred merchantmen, under convoy of a seventy-four, two frigates and a sloop." (Columbian Centinel, of Boston, June 9, 1813.)

[35] Murdoch's History of Nova Scotia, vol. iii. p. 351.

[36] Captains' Letters, April 13, 1813.

[37] Ibid., May 22.

[38] Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 134.

[39] Letter of Governor Winder, April 26, 1813. Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 204.



CHAPTER X

CAMPAIGN OF 1813 ON THE LAKE FRONTIER, TO THE BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE

In April, 1813, on the land frontier of the north and west, no substantial change had taken place in the conditions which gave to the United States the power of the offensive. Such modification as Chauncey's energy had effected was to strengthen superiority, by promising ultimate control of the upper and lower lakes. The British had not been idle; but the greater natural difficulties under which they labored, from less numerous population and less advanced development of the country and its communications, together with a greater severity of climate, had not been compensated by a naval direction similar to that exercised by the American commodore and his efficient second, Perry. Sir John Warren had been ordered to pay attention to the lakes, the naval service of which was placed under his charge. This added to his responsibilities, and to the drain upon his resources of men and materials; but, with an oversight already extending from Halifax to Jamaica and Barbados, he could do little for the lakes, beyond meeting requisitions of the local authorities and furnishing a draft of officers. Among those sent from his fleet was Captain Barclay, who commanded the British squadron in Perry's action.

The Admiralty, meantime, had awaked to the necessity of placing preparations and operations under competent naval guidance, if command of the water was to be secured. For that purpose they selected Captain Sir James Lucas Yeo, a young officer of much distinction, just turned thirty, who was appointed to the general charge of the lake service, under Warren. Leaving England in March, accompanied by a body of officers and seamen, Yeo did not reach Kingston until May 15, 1813, when the campaign was already well under way; having been begun by Dearborn and Chauncey April 24. His impressions on arrival were discouraging. He found the squadron in a weak state, and the enemy superior in fact and in promise. They had just succeeded in burning at York a British vessel intended for thirty guns, and they had, besides, vessels building at Sackett's Harbor. He had set to work, however, getting his force ready for action, and would go out as soon as possible to contest the control of Ontario; for upon that depended the tenure of Upper Canada.[40] Barclay, upon the arrival of his superior, was sent on to Amherstburg, to fulfil upon Erie the same relation to Yeo that Perry did to Chauncey.

It had been clearly recognized by the American authorities that any further movement for the recapture of Detroit and invasion of Canada would depend upon the command of Lake Erie; and that that in turn would depend largely upon mastery of Ontario. In fact, the nearer the sea control over the water communications could be established, the more radical and far-reaching the effect produced. For this reason, Montreal was the true objective of American effort, but the Government's attention from the first had centred upon the northwestern territory; upon the extremity of the enemy's power, instead of upon its heart. Under this prepossession, despite adequate warning, it had persisted in the course of which Hull's disaster was the outcome; and now, though aroused by this stunning humiliation, its understanding embraced nothing beyond the Great Lakes. Clear indication of this narrow outlook is to be found in the conditions on Lake Champlain, the natural highway to Canada. Only the scantiest mention is to be found of naval preparation there, because actually little was being done; and although the American force was momentarily superior, it was so simply because the British, being in Canada wholly on the defensive, and therefore obliged to conform to American initiative, contemplated no use of this lake, the mastery of which, nevertheless, was soon afterward thrown into their hands by a singularly unfortunate occurrence.

Dearborn, who still remained in chief command of the armies on the New York frontier, was therefore directed to concentrate his effort upon Ontario, starting from Sackett's Harbor as a base. Chauncey, whose charge extended no farther than the upper rapids of the St. Lawrence, had of course no other interest. His first plan, transmitted to the Navy Department January 21, 1813,[41] had been to proceed immediately upon the opening of navigation, with the fleet and a land force of a thousand picked troops, against Kingston, the capture of which, if effected, would solve at a single stroke every difficulty in the upper territory. No other harbor was tenable as a naval station; with its fall, and the destruction of shipping and forts, would go the control of the lake, even if the place itself were not permanently held. Deprived thus of the water communications, the enemy could retain no position to the westward, because neither re-enforcements nor supplies could reach them. To quote Chauncey's own words, "I have no doubt we should succeed in taking or destroying their ships and forts, and, of course, preserve our ascendency on this lake."

This remark, though sound, was narrow in scope; for it failed to recognize, what was perfectly knowable, that the British support of the Lake Erie stations and the upper country depended on their power to control, or at worst to contest, Ontario. Of this they themselves were conscious, as the words of Yeo and Brock alike testify. The new American Secretary of War, Armstrong, who was a man of correct strategical judgment and considerable military information, entered heartily into this view; and in a letter dated February 10 communicated to Dearborn the orders of the President for his operations, based upon the Secretary's recommendation.[42] Four thousand men were to be assembled at Sackett's, and three thousand at Buffalo. The former, under convoy of the fleet, was to proceed first against Kingston, then against York (Toronto). After this the two corps should co-operate in an attack to be made upon the British Niagara frontier, which rested upon Fort George on the Ontario shore, and Fort Erie upon Lake Erie. This plan was adopted upon the assumption, which was probably correct, that the enemy's entire military force upon Ontario did not exceed twenty-one hundred regular troops, of whom six hundred were at Kingston and twelve hundred at Niagara. Armstrong, who recognized the paramount importance of Montreal, had received the exaggerated impression that there might be in that neighborhood eight to ten thousand regulars. There were not yet nearly that number in all Canada;[43] but he was perhaps correct in thinking that the provision for the offensive, which he had found upon taking office a few weeks before, was insufficient for an advance in that quarter.

Dearborn very soon discovered objections to proceeding against Kingston, in his own estimates of the enemy's numbers, based upon remarkable reports received from sources "entitled to full credit." On March 3 he was satisfied that from six to eight thousand men had been assembled there from Quebec, Montreal, and Upper Canada; while the presence of Sir George Prevost, the Governor General, and commander-in-chief in Canada, who had seized an opportunity to make a hurried visit to Kingston to assure himself as to the progress of the ships building, convinced the American general that an attack upon Sackett's was contemplated.[44] From that time forward Dearborn realized in his own person the process of making pictures to one's self concerning a military situation, against which Napoleon uttered a warning. Chauncey was more sceptical, although he could not very well avoid attention to the reports brought in. He expresses himself as believing that a considerable number of men had been assembled in Kingston, but that their real object was to proceed against Harrison in the Far West.[45]

There seems to have been no foundation for any of these alarms. Prevost was a soldier of good reputation, but wanting in initiative, audacity, and resolution, as the current war was to prove. His presence at Kingston at this moment was simply one incident in a rapid official visit to the upper military posts, extending as far as Niagara, and accomplished in four weeks; for, leaving Quebec February 17, he was again writing from there on the 17th of March. As far as can be deduced from his correspondence, four companies of regulars had preceded him from Montreal to Kingston, and there may very well have been a gathering of local forces for inspection or otherwise; but no re-enforcements of regulars, other than that just mentioned, reached Kingston from down the river before May. Dearborn never renounced his belief in the meditated attack, though finally satisfied that it was abandoned; and his positive reports as to the enemy's numbers wrung from Armstrong acquiescence in a change of plan, by which York, and not Kingston, should be the first object of the campaign.[46]

Chauncey, who had some sound military ideas, as his first plan showed, was also brought round to this conclusion by a process of reasoning which he developed in a second plan of operations, submitted March 18,[47] but evidently long since matured. It apparently antedates Dearborn's apprehensions, and is not affected by them, though the two worked together to a common mistaken decision. The commodore's letter presents an interesting study, in its demonstration of how an erroneous first conception works out to false conclusions, and in the particular instance to ultimate military disaster. The capture of Kingston, his first plan, and its retention, which Armstrong purposed, would have settled the whole campaign and affected decisively the issue of the war. Chauncey's new project is dominated throughout by the view, which was that of the Government, that the great object of the war was to control the northwestern territory by local operations, instead of striking at the source of British power in its communication with the sea. At this moment, the end of March, the British naval force on Ontario was divided between York and Kingston; in each were vessels afloat and vessels building. An attack upon Kingston, Chauncey said, no doubt would be finally successful—an initial admission which gave away his case; but as the opposing force would be considerable, it would protract the general operations of the campaign—the reduction of the northwest—longer than would be advisable, particularly as large re-enforcements would probably arrive at Quebec in the course of two months. On the other hand, to proceed against York, which probably could be carried immediately, would result in destroying at once a large fraction of the British fleet, greatly weakening the whole body. Thence the combined Americans would turn against Fort George and the Niagara line. If successful here, the abandonment of Fort Erie by the British would release the American vessels which by its guns were confined at Black Rock. They would sail forth and join their consorts at Erie; which done, Chauncey, leaving his Ontario fleet to blockade Yeo at Kingston, would go to the upper lake and carry against the British the squadron thus concentrated there, would co-operate with the army under General Harrison, recover Detroit, and capture Malden. Lake Erie and its surroundings would thus become an American holding. After this, it would be but a step to reconquer Michilimackinac, thereby acquiring an influence over the Indians which, in conjunction with military and naval preponderance, would compel the enemy to forsake the upper country altogether, and concentrate his forces about Kingston and Montreal.

It is interesting to see an elaborate piece of serious reasoning gradually culminate in a reductio ad absurdum; and Chauncey's reasoning ends in a military absurdity. The importance of Kingston is conceded by him, and the probability of capturing it at the first is admitted. Thereupon follows a long project of operation, which ends in compelling the enemy to concentrate all his strength at the very points—Kingston and Montreal—which it is most important for the Americans to gain; away from which, therefore, they should seek to keep the enemy, and not to drive him in upon them. This comes from the bias of the Government, and of the particular officer, regarding the Northwestern territory as the means whereby success was to be accomplished instead of merely the end to be attained. To make the Western territory and control of the Indians the objects of the campaign was a political and military motive perfectly allowable, and probably, in view of recent history, extremely necessary; but to make these things the objective of operations was to invert the order of proceedings, as one who, desiring to fell a tree, should procure a ladder and begin cutting off the outermost branches, instead of striking at the trunk by the ground.

Eighteen months later Chauncey wrote some very wise words in this spirit. "It has always been my opinion that the best means to conquer Canada was to cut off supplies from Lower to Upper by taking and maintaining some position on the St. Lawrence. That would be killing the tree by girdling; the branches, dependent on ordinary supplies, die of necessity. But it is now attempted to kill the tree by lopping off branches" [he is speaking of the Niagara campaign of 1814]; "the body becomes invigorated by reducing the demands on its resources."[48] By this time Chauncey had been chastened by experience. He had seen his anticipated glory reaped on Lake Erie by his junior. He had seen the control of Ontario contested, and finally wrung from him, by vessels built at Kingston, the place which he had failed to take when he thought it possible. He had been blockaded during critical months by a superior squadron; and at the moment of writing, November 5, 1814, Sir James Yeo was moving, irresistible, back and forth over the waters of Ontario, with his flag flying in a ship of 102 guns, built at Kingston. In short, the Canadian tree was rooted in the ocean, where it was nourished by the sea power of Great Britain. To destroy it, failing the ocean navy which the United States had not, the trunk must be severed; the nearer the root the better.

Demonstration of these truths was not long in coming, and will be supplied by the narrative of events. When Chauncey penned the plan of operations just analyzed, there were in York two vessels, the "Prince Regent" of twenty guns, the "Duke of Gloucester," sixteen, and two—by his information—on the stocks. On April 14 the ice in Sackett's Harbor broke up, though large floes still remained in the lake. On the 19th these also had disappeared. Eighteen hundred troops were embarked by the squadron, and on the 24th the expedition started, but was driven back by heavy weather. The next day it got away finally, and on the early morning of the 27th appeared off York. The troops were landed westward of the town, and proceeded to attack, supported by the shipping. The enemy, inferior in number, retired; the small regular force making its escape, with the exception of fifty who surrendered with the militia present. The American loss, army and navy, was a little over three hundred; among whom was General Pike, an excellent soldier, who commanded the landing and was mortally wounded by the explosion of a magazine. The "Duke of Gloucester" schooner was taken, but the "Prince Regent" had gone to Kingston three days before; the weather which drove Chauncey back had enabled her to join her fleet as soon as released by the ice. By her escape the blow lost most of its effect; for York itself was indefensible, and was taken again without difficulty in the following July. A 30-gun vessel approaching completion was found on the stocks and burned, and a large quantity of military and naval stores were either destroyed or brought away by the victorious squadron. These losses were among the news that greeted Yeo's arrival; but, though severe, they were not irreparable, as Chauncey for the moment imagined. He wrote: "I believe that the enemy has received a blow that he cannot recover, and if we succeed in our next enterprise, which I see no reason to doubt, we may consider the upper province as conquered."[49] The mistake here was soon to be evident.

No time was wasted at York. The work of destruction, and of loading what was to be carried away, was completed in three days, and on May 1 the troops were re-embarked, to sail for Fort George on the morrow. The wind, which for some days had been fair and moderate from the eastward, then came on to blow a gale which would make landing impossible off Niagara, and even navigation dangerous for the small vessels. This lasted through the 7th, Chauncey writing on that day that they were still riding with two anchors ahead and lower yards down. So crowded were the ships that only half the soldiers could be below at one time; hence they were exposed to the rain, and also to the fresh-water waves, which made a clean breach over the schooners. Under such circumstances both troops and seamen sickened fast. On the 8th, the weather moderating, the squadron stood over to Fort Niagara, landed the troops for refreshment, and then returned to Sackett's; it being thought that the opportunity for surprise had been lost, and that no harm could come of a short further delay, during which also re-enforcements might be expected.

Soon after his return Chauncey sent a flag of truce to Kingston. This made observations as to the condition of the enemy which began to dispel his fair illusions.[50] His purpose to go in person to Niagara was postponed; and despatching thither the squadron with troops, he remained at Sackett's to protect the yard and the ships building, in co-operation with the garrison. His solicitude was not misplaced. Niagara being a hundred and fifty miles from Sackett's, the fleet and army had been committed to a relatively distant operation, depending upon a main line of communication,—the lake,—on the flank and rear of which, and close to their own inadequately protected base, was a hostile arsenal, Kingston, harboring a naval force quite able to compete with their own. The danger of such a situation is obvious to any military man, and even to a layman needs only to be indicated. Nevertheless the enterprise was launched, and there was nothing for it now but to proceed on the lines laid down.

Chauncey accordingly sailed May 22, re-enforcements of troops for the defence of Sackett's having meantime arrived. He did not reach Niagara until the 25th. The next day was spent in reconnoissances, and other preparations for a landing on the lake shore, a short mile west of Fort George. On the 27th, at 9 A.M., the attack began, covered by the squadron. General Vincent, in command of the British Niagara frontier, moved out to meet his enemy with the entire force near Fort George, leaving only a small garrison of one hundred and thirty men to hold the post itself. There was sharp fighting at the coast-line; but Vincent's numbers were much inferior, and he was compelled steadily to give ground, until finally, seeing that the only alternatives were the destruction of his force or the abandonment of the position, he sent word to the garrison to spike the guns, destroy the ammunition, and to join his column as it withdrew. He retreated along the Niagara River toward Queenston, and thence west to Beaver Dam, about sixteen miles from Fort George. At the same time word was sent to the officers commanding at Fort Erie, and the intermediate post of Chippewa, to retire upon the same place, which had already been prepared in anticipation of such an emergency. The three divisions were thus in simultaneous movement, converging upon a common point of concentration, where they all assembled during the night; the whole, as reported by Vincent to his superior, now not exceeding sixteen hundred.[51] The casualties during the day's fighting had been heavy, over four hundred killed and wounded; but in the retreat no prisoners were lost except the garrison of the fort, which was intercepted. Dearborn, as before at York, had not landed with his troops; prevented, doubtless, by the infirmities of age increasing upon him. Two days later he wrote to the Department, "I had presumed that the enemy would confide in the strength of his position and venture an action, by which an opportunity would be afforded to cut off his retreat."[52] This guileless expectation, that the net may be spread not in vain before the eyes of any bird, provoked beyond control such measure of equanimity as Armstrong possessed. Probably suspecting already that his correct design upon Kingston had been thwarted by false information, he retorted: "I cannot disguise from you the surprise occasioned by the two escapes of a beaten enemy; first on May 27, and again on June 1. Battles are not gained, when an inferior and broken enemy is not destroyed. Nothing is done, while anything that might have been done is omitted."[53] Vincent was unkind enough to disappoint his opponent. The morning after the engagement he retired toward a position at the head of the lake, known then as Burlington Heights, where the town of Hamilton now stands. Upon his tenure here the course of operations turned twice in the course of the next six months.

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